One of the highlights of any holiday is the food, but on cruise ships it’s even more important. And they don’t disappoint – from celebrity chefs to beachside barbeques, the range of cruise cuisine continues to grow in quality and originality
Best Line for Celebrity Chefs: P&O
P&O leads the way with celebrity chef-run restaurants on six ships and guest appearances and cooking classes on selected sailings. Marco Pierre White’s classic Mediterranean dishes appear in The White Room on Ventura; his casual French bistro-style food features in Aurora’s Cafe Bordeaux and Italian-inspired cuisine can be tasted in Oceana’s Cafe Jardin. Adonia features White’s Ocean Grill, which will soon replace Gary Rhodes’ Arcadia and Oriana restaurants. Onboard Azura P&O worked with Michelin-starred Indian chef Atul Kochhar to create Sindhu, a British/Indian fine-dining experience and teamed up with TV wine-expert Olly Smith for The Glasshouse’s wine pairings and tastings.
Best Excursions for Foodies: Princess Cruises
Princess Cruises’ foodie-themed excursions let passengers get their teeth into the destinations visited. Tasty trips range from a day out from Alicante to try a tipple of Moscatel dessert wine, to a world cruise stop at Adelaide to visit the vineyards and sample the famous Australian Barossa Valley wines. There are plenty of non-tipsy trips on offer as well. Dutch cheese fans can have a taste of the real Edam on a visit from Amsterdam, sweet-toothed foodies can nibble Corsican nougat on an excursion from the island’s capital Ajaccio and wannabe chefs can make pizza in its hometown of Naples.
Best Cruise for Wine Lovers: Silversea Silver Spirit
With six restaurants onboard Silversea’s Silver Spirit there’s plenty of choice, but for wine-lovers there’s only one option; the intimate Le Champagne dining room, which features six-course tasting menus expertly wine-paired by Relais & Chateaux. The experience isn’t cheap, with a cost of $30 for the meal and an additional $200 for wine pairings. At the Seishin Japanese restaurant a $40 11-course degustation menu can be sampled with wine-pairings for a further $200. Silversea has the only Relais & Chateaux L’Ecoles des Chefs cooking school at sea, where guests can attend classes, workshops and escorted tours to markets and restaurants.
If wine’s not your thing, don’t worry! Simply view our Best Cruise Ship Bars for more details on how to get your hands on a delicious alternative.
Best Inclusive Dining: Oceania Riviera/Marina
When it comes to inclusive dining Oceania‘s new sister ships, Marina and Riviera, push the boat out with an inclusive Polo Grill steakhouse, Tuscan-inspired Toscana, Asian-influenced Red Ginger and Executive Chef Jacques Pepin’s French bistro Jacques. At Toscana sommeliers from wine-producing families are on-hand and at Red Ginger chefs put a modern twist on Asian fusion classics. Jacques is a bistro-style restaurant with a show rotisserie that spins glistening ducks, chicken and veal, or for an extra fee guests can join in a hands-on cookery class or sample a seven-course wine-paired meal in the intimate La Reserve by Wine Spectator.
Best Overall Dining Experience: Uniworld
River cruise specialists Uniworld are repeatedly voted as the best in class when it comes to ship cuisine, including winning Cruise International’s ‘Best for Dining’ award. Uniworld is the only cruise line that is Zagat-rated and Master Chef Bernhard Zorn is the line’s new culinary director who leads a team of chefs that make the most of local farmers’ markets along the rivers to create fresh meals. Gourmet dinners are accompanied by fine wines chosen by Red Carnation Hotel’s acclaimed sommelier and on 17 itineraries free ‘Epicurean Adventurer’ programmes feature wine and food pairing, cooking demos and onshore wine tastings.
Best Variety: NCL’s Norwegian Epic
Putting the epic into epicurean, NCL’s biggest ship has over 20 eating establishments covering all corners of the globe. NCL’s ‘freestyle’ dining means no assigned seating and many of the restaurants are inclusive, including the quirky main dining rooms, buffets and 24-hour food in Irish bar O’Sheehan’s. Alongside staples such as a Tuscan restaurant and steakhouse, Epic has several ‘food as theatre’ options with the Brazilian-inspired Moderno Churrascaria, where skewers of meat are carved at the table; Teppanyaki, where Japanese chefs slice and toss ingredients onto the grill and in the Cirque Dreams show where acrobats ring the dinner gong.
Best Cookery School: Holland America Line
It’s nice being fed 24-hours a day on a cruise ship, but sometimes it’s good to don an apron and get back in the kitchen. Holland America Line spent $13m putting Culinary Arts Centers (sic) across their fleet and each one holds between 100-245 guests in plush theatre-style seating, complete with large plasma TVs that show all the action, which is also beamed into staterooms. In the Culinary Arts Centers, run in partnership with Food & Wine magazine, guest chefs run free cooking demos, hands-on cooking lessons for a maximum of 12 guests ($20pp), tastings and free cookery classes for kids.
Best Stamp of Approval: RSS’s Signatures Restaurants
It takes a lot to get the notoriously-fastidious Le Cordon Bleu stamp of approval, but since the launch of Regent Seven Seas Voyager in 2003, the cruise line has worked with the famous cookery organisation in their Signatures restaurants onboard both Voyager and Mariner. Staffed by mainly French, but all Cordon Bleu trained, chefs Signatures restaurant is a ‘specialty’ experience that’s inclusive for guests and the smart silver-service experience also includes premium wines to accompany the fine French meal. Regent Seven Seas guests just need to make a reservation onboard to sample the only two Cordon Bleu restaurants at sea.
Best Outdoor Dining: Yachts of Seabourn
Seabourn, a member of Chaine des Rotisseurs, has enlisted celebrity chef Charlie Palmer to make his mark on the regionally themed onboard menus, using produce selected from markets visited en route. In warmer climes guests are treated to beachside barbecues and ‘caviar in the surf’ events, but onboard there are just as many al fresco options. A favourite is the Sky Grill and onboard Seabourn Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest The Colonnade is a popular casual indoor/outdoor venue to enjoy dinner under the stars. A hidden treat is in-suite dining, where guests can enjoy an intimate meal served on their veranda.